A new approach to evangelism

prayer-1143598_640The traditional approach to evangelism, according to Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today, has started with presenting the Gospel to unbelievers.  The new approach, he says, starts with getting them involved with the church.  In the course of their relationships in the community of Christians, they will come to believe.

He sums up the two models this way:  Old:  Believe, Become, Belong.  New:  Belong, Believe, Become.

For more details, read the excerpts and the article linked after the jump.

As a Lutheran, I do see that bringing an unbelieving friend to church is a good way to evangelize that person, since a pastor, by virtue of his call, is going to proclaim the Gospel better than I can.  And yet, the church is a community of Christians, not something non-Christians can fully enter into, even if they wanted to, and I’m not sure they do.

And what makes a non-believer into a believer is the Gospel.  Even if the non-believer becomes, to some measure, a part of the  community and comes to have Christian friends who are good influences, at some point that friend–or the pastor, or someone–is going to have to tell the person about Christ.  (Actually, bring the person to the point of repentance through the Law, so as to make the hearer receptive to the Gospel.)  At that point, the “old” model would seem to reassert itself.

Actually, both models seem inadequate.  Baptism is nowhere mentioned.  Nor is Law, which leads to Gospel.  The very breaking down of the process into steps seems to go against the organic, unique, and varied way the Holy Spirit works.

What do you think about these approaches?

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The formal and the material principles of theology

The “formal principle” of a particular theology is its source and authority.  The “material principle” of a theology is its central teaching, the characteristic “content” of the theology that shapes its other teachings and practices.

In the course of some research for a project I am working on, I learned that this distinction emerged out of Lutheran scholarship.  But it’s a helpful way to understand any theological tradition.

Wikipedia has an entry on the subject that lists the formal and material principles of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Zwinglianism, Calvinism, and Methodism.

These are taken from F. E. Mayer’s classic study The Religious Bodies of America.  I give them after the jump.

These are theologies, not church bodies, and it’s evident that various evangelicals might be “Zwinglians,” “Calvinists,” or “Methodists” (a.k.a. Arminians).  But there are still Baptist, Pentecostal, and other theologies, including popular expressions such as “the prosperity gospel.”  How would you break down their formal and material principles?

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A rite for changing to a new gender?

30108554503_82b923c684_zAt Baptism, among other things, a child is named.  So what about those who later get a new name along with a new gender?  Some LGBT activists in churches are urging the adoption of a new service “akin to baptism” to mark and to formally bless transgender transitions.

Officials of the Church of England have tabled a proposal to that effect.  The General Synod meeting next week will NOT change church teachings about sexuality, it has been announced, and will NOT change the definition of marriage to allow for same-sex weddings.

But transgender re-baptisms, naming ceremonies, or the equivalent, are on the agenda of progressive church activists in many denominations.  They are already happening, as a Google search will show.

How does this show a misunderstanding of Baptism? [Read more…]

The Marburg Colloquy online

Noack_1869_MR-ReligionsgesprächDid you know that a transcript survives of the Marburg Colloquy (1529), in which Luther and Zwingli debated the presence of Christ in the elements of Holy Communion?  Did you know that it is posted online?

This meeting, attended by virtually all of the major figures of the early Reformation, was an attempt to settle the Reformation’s sacramental teachings once and for all.  Phillip of Hesse organized the event in an attempt to unify the Reformation side in the face of imminent military threat from the Holy Roman Emperor.  But Luther would not water down his teaching for pragmatic reasons. With the Marburg Colloquy, the Lutherans and the Reformed went their separate ways, with most subsequent Protestants following, in effect, a non-sacramental approach to Christianity.

The transcript reads like a play, or a screenplay.  (Suggestion:  Somebody perform this!)  For all of its theological give and take, it has quite a few dramatic moments:  Luther writing “This is my body” in chalk on the table beneath a tablecloth, continually referring to it in the course of Zwingli’s rationalistic arguments.  Luther at more than one point saying, “I’m tired–Phillip [Melanchthon], you take over,” only to erupt at the next thing Zwingli says without letting Phillip get a word in edgewise.  The emotional moments on both sides.  The ending with its pleas for reconciliation and Luther’s devastating “we are not of the same spirit.”

Read the beginning after the jump and go to the link to read it all.  Notice the different approaches not just to the Sacrament but to the Bible and, above all, to Christology. [Read more…]

Fake News 

fake-1903774_640Both sides of our political divide are accusing the other of spreading “fake news.”

Rev. Tim Pauls, writing for LCMS News & Information, says that of course making up facts and believing whatever we want to is going to be a problem in a culture that rejects objective truth.

He gives some striking examples and some insightful analysis from a Christian perspective.  He then gives some Biblical texts that address this issue and suggests how Christians can handle it. [Read more…]

Donald Trump in Bible prophecy?

B_Facundus_167Many End Times preachers are saying that the rise of Donald Trump was prophesied in the Bible as a herald that the last days are upon us.  He’s not the anti-christ.  We know that because the Bible says of the anti-Christ:

“Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.” (Dan 11:37)

Trump, with his history of womanizing, does regard the desire of women, so we can rest easy about that.  Rather, he is a much more positive sign.  The Scriptures clearly say that Christ will come back after the sounding of “the last trump.”

Never mind that the connection only works in the English language.  And that “trump” as short for “trumpet” only works in the archaic English of the King James Bible.  Or that turning the Bible into a symbolic code, rather than attending to what it literally says, undermines Biblical authority.

Other objections present themselves:  Isn’t the new president the “first Trump” to be in office?  Maybe he will start a dynasty.  Maybe his son Barron, or Barron’s son or grandson, will be the “last Trump.”  Where does “last” enter into the prophecy?  (Can you think of other problems with this interpretation?)

A sample of this End Times prediction after the jump. [Read more…]